Monthly Archives: November 2012

NO RELATIONSHIPS, NO MINISTRY

God and theology are relational   

God by nature is relational; one God who exists in three persons

The word of God is relational; it is God’s revealed plan to save and restore a people for Himself

God’s means of saving us is relational; God eternally took on our nature and gave himself for us

We cannot follow God unless we have a relational focus

The Great Commandments are relational

The Great Commission is relational

The fruit of the spirit are relational

The nature of the church is relational; we are the family of God and the body of Christ

How can we love or how can we show grace if we do not live out “God in us” relationally?

However relationships always bring problems

Everyone you have a relationship with is a sinner  

It’s impossible to have problem free relationship, but it is possible to have correct perspectives and responses

We don’t have marriage problems or relational problems, we have sin problems

People and problems don’t make us sin, they can only squeeze out what was already inside us

Even with all the mess in relationships, God keeps pushing us into them

He instituted the family and the church  

His word keeps pushing us into closer involvements, by telling us to love our neighbor and live in fellowship with each other

It is indefensible for a believer to isolate themselves from relationships

Ministry requires large doses of grace – patience – love – forgiveness – persistence etc, if we are to have a biblical perspective in relationships

Burying relational problems and ignoring them is not a biblical option

Walking away from relational problems is not a biblical option   

However, God does not ask you to be run over by people; we need to establish boundaries or we are enabling people’s sin

Life is simpler when we have a self-focus; we only have to worry about me

But life is much fuller and fruitful when it is relational

When these relationships are God-centered, we are carrying out the most meaningful labors on earth

Make relationship building a way of life

Be helpful and friendly, this draws people to us

Be interested in people’s lives; people like those who listen to them over those who talk at them

Be a servant, so people realize your agenda is not just about yourself

Each morning pray about the interactions you know are ahead of you that day

Look for those who are hurting and on the outside

Our world is filled with ministry potential

If you do not see them, ask God (who does) to open your eyes

When conflicts happen, respond with God’s agenda rather than your own. These can become times of great growth and effective ministry

We typically see conflicts in relationships as an obstacle or as a sign to leave!

But God wants us to see these moments as opportunities for growth and ministry

We are not all people persons, but what we do can be about people

WILL YOU PRAY FOR THIS?

Like many churches, we have been seeking to serve the people in our community affected by Hurricane Sandy. This is a special opportunity because people are aware that they need help. We hope to serve these physical and emotional needs in such a way that we can also touch their deeper God need.

For many years our church has done a great job of providing outreaches that drew unchurched people to our building, giving us an opportunity to share the gospel to them. We still want to do this and do it well. However, we have not done as good of a job in reaching out into the community. We are asking God to help us grow in this area, and the aftermath of the storm provides many opportunities for us to work at it.

Parallel to this, I have been struck by the number of unchurched people this month who have visited our services on their own – they have not come because they were invited or because they know someone at Greentree. I don’t know the reason why this is happening, but I do rejoice in it AND I am praying that God will accomplish a fresh and mighty work of grace in our midst.

If Greentree is your church home, would you join me in praying that God will work in fresh and mighty ways among us? I am not asking you to offer a brief prayer as you read this and then move on; I am asking you to consider making this a special daily emphasis in your prayers.

It is wondrous to be part of what God is doing. We want God to use us. We need God to use us.

We don’t know if this is the beginning of a new season God is giving us, but we can beseech God that it would be.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 11.26.12

A Life That Overflows   

Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’. Now this he said about the Spirit whom those who believed in him were to receive.”  John 7:37-39

Christ not only saves, he fills

In v37 Jesus is inviting people to believe in him

He often referred to believing as “drinking” or “eating”

This is meant to shows us that belief in him is more than a mere acknowledgement of him

The word of Christ is to rule our lives

The kingdom of Christ is to be our hope

Those who don’t have life in Christ still thirst

They have an essential and unmet need which Christ uniquely satisfies, because he created us be in relationship with him

Our self-rule is unnatural to how God made us

To live apart from Christ is sin, because it corrupts what he made “good”

God hates sin because it ruins life: there are no good cancers and there is no innocent sin

Life in Christ is a return to what living was meant to be

Obedience to him returns our life to what is wise and good

A deeper relationship with Christ provides lasting satisfaction

To share in what Christ does brings the greatest of joys

“But I believe in Christ and my life is not full”

Christ remains glorious in all his character and his works. When we feel empty and dry, Christ has not come up short, we have

The answer to emptiness is a greater pursuit of the One who fills

Christ fills us to be overflowing

Jesus didn’t say “whoever drinks will have their thirst quenched”

This is true, but Jesus took it much further (v38)

God who was eternally satisfied in Himself, overflowed into our lives

We are God’s image bearers; we were created to live beyond ourselves

All rivers have a source; they flow with what they receive

The Holy Spirit is our source

He is all-knowing, unlimited and never overwhelmed

The Spirit is all we ever need and He not only lives in us, He works through us

We are not expected to produce the river, we just flow with it

To be overflowing, we need to be filled

1.  Drink deeply

Trust Christ so completely, that all of your life follows him

All Christians believe, but not as much as we think

We believe in eternity, but still try to find fulfillment in temporal things

We believe God is perfect, but still compromise with His ways

Overflowing is not complicated; keep drinking in and you will overflow

Take the realities of God seriously as if nothing is more real

2.  Keep debris cleared away

The clutter that clogs a stream doesn’t happen in a moment

Debris gathers at edges, which snags more debris, and silt begins to builds up

What is your debris? What forms of sin, neglect and misplaced agendas get in the way?

We deceive selves into thinking we are “functional sinners”; just as there are people who think they are “functional alcoholics”, it simply doesn’t work

Are you discouraged because you have messed up so often?

Although you are not yet completed in your sanctification, you can still overflow!

Rivers don’t all have same breadth, but even a small stream carries fruitfulness

3.  Flow out

Make your life about what Christ is doing

Your life is meant to be far better things than the shallowness of self-satisfaction

You were given new life in order to be part of God’s glorious works! (Ephesians 2:10)

Yet, we sadly settle for less and shrink life to our own desires

What would happen if everyone in our church simply overflowed?

The results would be spectacular!

Do you want your life to be overflowing?  So does God

Stop limiting life to selfishness and lesser things

Pursue Christ who is the fountain of life: strive to know him more intimately and love him more passionately

Be so filled with him, that his works cannot stay within you

SUGAR SNAILS – REVISTED

 

My blog began two years ago this week. Since there were very few readers in those early days, I am re-posting the first couple days of my blog. Today you can read my second article which was posted on Thanksgiving Day 2010.

This morning our kitchen is filled with the activity and smells of pie baking. I enjoy many forms of dessert, but nothing can beat a pie (for those who claim a great dessert must be chocolate, that’s why there are chocolate pies). I think I came by this love of pie from my granddad who, when asked what foods he liked, would answer, “Just as long as it’s pie.”

Another reason I love pie is that early on I tasted the mountain peak of piedom, which is a still warm and fragrant Doris Morey apple pie. The apples have a soft texture and the flavor is a perfect mix of sweet tartness. The crust is never over-handled leaving it flaky and melting in the mouth. Oh my, it is good! 

In his graciousness, God gave me a wife who among her long list of talents is a terrific pie baker. Debbie was raised in a proper farm home, where baking was a constant activity and pies were considered a major food group.

But my thoughts today are not only on pies, I would also like to extol the humble sugar snail. Sugar snails are made from the leftover pie dough that is sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and rolled. Before being placed in the oven, the roll is cut into small pieces or snails. We have to wait until after dinner to eat pie, but sugar snails are the special treat that can be enjoyed right away. A perfect sugar snail has a crust of caramelized sugar that oozed out and is still sticking to the foil wrapping.

I think there is a wonderful lesson to be learned from the sugar snail. They are a side benefit. No one goes into the kitchen to make sugar snails; their attention is on the lofty goal of producing a delicious and much sought after pie. During all the work and mess of making a pie no one even thinks about the sugar snails that will quietly show up in the end. Yet, when the big effort of pie making occurs, the humble sugar snail is also made possible.

So to those of you who are laboring for Christ, and want to do big things for His Kingdom; know that there are many small and very wonderful results that God will accomplish when we faithfully serve Him. When God enables us to be part of something big, we are rightfully amazed and thankful. Yet today let us not neglect being thankful for the privilege of taking part in little things for God – the “cups of cold water” we give in Jesus name.

As you go through this day wanting to be used by God, don’t forget the little things that are possible along the way. Even if the impressive pie you tried to make did not turn out perfect, you can still make and share a few sugar snails. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

A WELL ROOTED THANKSGIVING – REVISITED

My blog made its inauspicious debut November 24, 2010, which was the day before Thanksgiving. Since there were very few readers in those initial days, this week I am re-posting the first couple days of my blog. Here is what I wrote for the first day on my blog

What does one write on their first blog post?  I suppose it should be wise and witty.  But then there is the reality that this will only be read by three people including my mom (and I will have to go to her house and open it for that to happen)

A good place to start is to explain the purpose of this blog, which is to help lead any who do read it to become WELL ROOTED in Christ and His gospel.  Along the way there will most likely be a good dose of meanderings that will regularly cause readers to shake their heads and mutter “but for the grace of God . . .”

My wife Debbie gets credit for the blog name.  We were sitting outside the Somers Point Starbucks with a good concept and a lot of bad ideas, when in a moment of sagacity (the big word for today’s post) she blurted out the name that stuck. 

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day I will take my well rooted meanderings in that direction. The soil for being well rooted is the Word of God, and prayer is the water that all roots crave.  But today I want to focus on worship, which is the sunshine that warms the soil and stimulates growth in an almost magical way.   During the past two years nothing has impacted my life more worship.  I have gone from seeing myself as someone who worships God, to taking on the identity of being a worshipper. Living out this distinction has dramatically changed my prayer life, it is impacting my study of God’s Word and it has improved how I, well . . worship.

The passage in God’s Word that has most stimulated this change of perspective is Habakkuk 3:17-18:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

Basically the writer is saying, if everything goes wrong, I will worship my God!  How can anyone rejoice in God when everything is going wrong?  Because He is “the God of our salvation”.  No matter what seems to be going wrong in the life of the believer, our salvation is a glorious possession that always deserves the sacrifice of praise.

It is important that we notice the phrase, “I will take joy”.   His joy was something he did not wait for God to give – he went after it.  That is the change I made in my prayer time.  My goal in my prayer time is not to finish my increasing long list of requests; it is to come to a place where I can honestly say that my heart takes joy in my God.  Most days this is not difficult, but sometimes it takes the entire time to take hold of the joy God rightfully deserves from me.

May your Thanksgiving Day be stuffed with worship.  So before we fill our bodies with the bounty of God’s blessing, let us fill our hearts with praise to God who is our everything!  Let us agree with the prophet Habakkuk – no, let us follow his example: and take joy in the God of our salvation!

PREPARING YOURSELF FOR THANKSGIVING

Debbie Huber, Guest Blogger

If we could characterize Thanksgiving in America today, we would say that much emphasis is placed on planning the turkey dinner, family coming together, football, and strategic planning for the Black Friday sales. We would even say that there is some emphasis on thankfulness sprinkled in.  For our family, we look forward to these things too. I am filled with excitement and anticipation of having all of our children home for Thanksgiving. I love planning the meal and preparing the pies. I have been known to get up a little early to do some Black Friday shopping the day after and there are some in our family who will enjoy watching football (or falling asleep in front of the TV!) following the meal.

But is there true thankfulness to God in the midst of this weekend and in all of our life?  Do the people that we are around witness in us the source of our thankfulness?  We hear people saying what they are thankful for, but is it just a momentary gesture to God or an attitude of “I am glad that I have ‘things’ and not too many difficulties”?

What is the foundation of our thankfulness?   In 1 Corinthians 1:4, Paul tells the Corinthians, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.”  I Thessalonians 5: 18 tells us: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

In His great love and mercy, God grace was given to us through Jesus’ death on the cross to rescue us from our deserved punishment for our sins. When we truly consider what we have been forgiven and to what we have been saved, our attitude every day, in good and in bad circumstances, should be gratitude to our merciful God.

Many Christians spend holidays with extended family who are not believers.  You may even feel that they are difficult to be around.  Do we show this attitude of thankfulness to God around them or do we get into the same old pattern of impatience, gossip, complaining, or just indifference?

Prepare yourself to use this time with family for the sake of the gospel. 

Prepare by being thankful that you have been saved from a deserved eternal punishment!

Prepare yourself by reading the psalms of thankfulness to God. 

Thank Him for His goodness in everything.

Thank Him that He is at work in your life, in all circumstances.

Thank God for each member of your family. God will use your thankfulness for them to grow your love for them.

This week, pray for God’s grace to love your family and not to sin. Pray that God will be glorified in all of your interactions with them and that you will have the opportunity to share the Gospel to them.

And start everyday throughout the year by preparing for an attitude of thankfulness to our Savior!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 11.19.12

People need God to work through us

Matthew 9:35-38

36When (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”

People need us to see them as Jesus does (v36)  

Recent events have surrounded us with people who are obviously harassed and helpless

We have an opportunity to show Christ and help them in their immediate needs

It is important that we recognize these needs won’t end with the clean up. In the months ahead financial pressures will linger, which often leads to other family pressures

We can be ready for them by building relationships and being attentive to people

But most of all we need to be aware of the permanent need everyone we know has

Just as real these physical needs, but far more devastating is that people are “harassed and helpless” in their sin

These words are a picture of people who are worn down and without hope

However even when people feel this condition, they don’t see its cause

People can see the affect of certain sins, but they don’t recognize the deeper burden of sinfulness

Yet, sin is the root of every burden and pain we bear

Isaiah 59:11-12 describes it this way:

“We all growl like bears; we moan and moan like doves . . for our transgressions are with us”

Our touch in people’s lives should reflect this understanding

Any help without the gospel, is merely an anesthetic

Anesthesia has an important place but it does not heal anything

If we know people’s deepest need and ignore it, we have not served them well

People need us to see they are without a shepherd

People not only need Jesus as Savior, they need him as Lord (Romans 10:9); they need Christ to guide them  

Gospel is not preeminently life insurance from God’s wrath; it is new life under God’s care

People need us to see them in their true need, who else will?

People need us to have Jesus’ heart for them (v36)

Jesus response to seeing people under sin was to have “compassion”

Look at people vertically (God perspective), instead of horizontally (human perspective)

Look at people for what they need from Christ, instead of what they produce for us

Look at people according to the agenda of the cross, instead of our own agenda

We are the only ones who will have Jesus’ agenda for people (Matthew 11:28-30)

His arms are wide open to all who are burdened

His invitation takes into account people’s pain and weaknesses

His invitation is inseparable from submission to his truth and rule

We share Jesus compassion, by following his approach to people

People need us to be Jesus’ hands to them (vs 37-38)

We are to be laborers in the work that is most important to God

Jesus clearly means to instill us with a sense of urgency

We are always around people who need Christ

There are always people we can pursue – who else will?

Jesus wants us to pray with participation, not detachment

“Lord raise up workers among us; and Lord, use me”

How can we be God’s hands right now to people around us?

  • Pray for people and follow up by asking for updates
  • Clean up their yard
  • Ask if there is anything they need to borrow
  • Find out what they lost that you can help replace
  • Offer to watch their children
  • Offer to run errands
  • Make meals for them
  • Have a few neighbors over for informal meals
  • Let them serve you too, this is also important for relationship building

We are stewards of the ministry we have received from God (II Corinthians 1:4)

We who have light, are surrounded by the spiritually blind

We who are wondrously blessed, are surrounded by the spiritually impoverished

This week, what will people experience from you?

 

LET YOUR “NO” BE “NO”

It is a scene you have witnessed many times in public settings – or maybe it hits a little closer to home: a parent tells their child “no” and the child either ignores them without receiving any consequences or the child pleads until the parent caves in to their demands.

In reality, there are serious consequences whether or not the parent and child recognize that to be the case. When we fail to train our children to submit to our instructions – we fail to train them to submit to God. Why would a child think submission to God is essential if they are rarely required to submit to the parents God gave them?

Or, in another scenario, the parent only makes them submit when they “lose their patience” or more accurately, when they “find their anger and impatience”. The parent supposed wins out in these cases through the raw force of size, volume, anger or physicality. But nobody “wins” when the gospel is not modeled. Once again the child involved is given an inaccurate view of how authority and submission is meant to work.

On the Gospel Coalition website, Jen Wilken writes an insightful article entitled “Parent, Let Your No Be No”. She points out that we tend to get this point in terms of letting our “yes be yes”:

But it is in the area of letting our “no” be “no” that our credibility usually suffers. Who hasn’t seen the young mom in the grocery store issuing and repeating a series of “no” statements to her young child, to be met with either no acknowledgment or outward defiance? It is critical for parents to understand the subtext of these scenarios: they are a battle for parental credibility.

Parenting is hard work! It involves a commitment to biblical values and the consistent application of them. Some parents simply don’t grasp the essential value of consistency and the enforcement of the instructions we give our children. Many more want to do better, but they wear down and give in.

A great help to our backbone in these matters is the conviction that it is of immense importance. We simply cannot manifest true love to our children when we give in to their selfish and sinful persistence. Wilkens adds,

Consider: We should repeat ourselves as many times as we want our child to actively disobey. When we tell ourselves “Oh, he just didn’t hear me,” or “Oh, she’s too young to understand,” we disrespectfully imply that our children are either deaf or stupid. If they are old enough to hear and respond immediately to “Come get a cookie,” they are old enough to hear and respond immediately to “Pick up your toys.” The issue is not their hearing or intelligence but their will.

Parenting really is a form of discipleship, our great job is to lead our children into a personal and growing relationship with Christ. We cannot make this happen, but we can do all that is in our power to shepherd their hearts toward God’s heart.

If you are a parent who faces this battle throughout the day, I hope you will be encouraged rather than feel a sense of defeat. Read the entire article and gain fresh courage in the value of leading your children as God leads His children.

 

IAN McCONNELL ON BEING SUPERMAN

If you were hoping to read how to be a “superman”, Ian McConnell began his message on the closing night of the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s Conference by reminding us we are NOT supermen and we never will be.

However, we are called to be “Gospel Men”, and that is a wonderful calling.  Using Matthew 16:13-21, Ian in his inner city Philadelphia style, gave us straightforward biblical truths for being Gospel Men. Here are my notes:

1.  We are men who are gripped by the gospel

We believe the gospel is of supreme importance. 

Is there anything gripping us more than Christ?

2.  We are men who believe God uses men like us

We should expect God to fulfill what he has committed himself to do, which is to use his people and make his plea through us

Just because we are ordinary, don’t make God out to be ordinary.

3.  We are men who believe God works through our works. 

God has called us to be disciple makers for his kingdom and to touch the lives of others through his gospel. 

We are called to multiply and mature at the same time.

4.  We are men who believe God’s mission cannot be stopped. 

Hell cannot prevail against God’s mission, because Christ doesn’t lose

If we fill our lives with what Christ is doing and his agenda, we will not lose

When we have doubts, don’t try to extinguish them by more work, but by having faith in our Lord.

We are not called to be supermen, but we are gospel men!

As with the previous conference messages I shared with you, Melissa’s much better synopsis can be read on the Sovereign Grace Blog and you can also listen to the full audio

 

 

JEFF PURSWEL ON SPIRITUAL WARFARE

While our region was being buffeted by Hurricane Sandy, I had the privilege of lstening to Jeff Purswell preach on Spiritual Warfare at the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s Conference. As Jeff spoke on the well know passage of Ephesians 6:10-20, he showed why we can STAND against the enemies hardest blows.

Here are my notes from Jeff’s outstanding message, “A Call to Arms”:

OUR CALL

The call to “be strong” means we act out of God having already acted upon us.  We are strong by being made strong.

We are called to a task needing supernatural power.  It is a charade for us to personally be strong against spiritual forces

This call assumes our union with Christ, which is why the call is not empty. 

We can be strong because Christ always rules!

OUR CONTEXT

We need to be able to stand because we are in a battle. 

We are wrestling in hand to hand combat with an enemy who wants to destroy us.

Notice in Ephesians 6 the emphasis on conflict, as Paul repeatedly describes the forces “against us”

How would your life be different if you kept in mind that we do not “fight flesh and blood”? 

This includes your skirmishes at home, at work and at church, etc. 

People are not your enemy.  We are not fighting them. 

We are fighting the powers of spiritual darkness which are fighting against God.

When we recognize who we fight against, we become more compassionate for the people we are tempted to fight.

If we are tempted to fight a believer, remember they are also struggling in this battle. 

If we are tempted to fight against an unbeliever, remember they are held captive to the evil one.

We stand against “schemes”. 

These are intelligent plans whose primary focus is to oppose our Lord. 

Satan sees us as merely the collateral damage in his fight against God.

Satan has real power, but not lasting power

OUR PROVISION

We need to focus on Christ, not on Satan. Ephesians 6 is not meant to cause us to focus more on Satan, but to focus more on Christ who is greater.

God gives us armor and weapons so we can stand and withstand the attacks of our enemy.

Notice the armor we are given is full armor. 

We have all the armor that a soldier needs for every battle contingency. 

There are not “special ops” troops in the church.  We are all equipped soldiers.

This is God’s own armor. 

Most of the items listed in Ephesians 6 come out of descriptions the prophet Isaiah gives about what God wears. This tells us that our armor is made up of divine strengths.

We remain confident because God remains in control.

When Paul mentions prayer at the end of the list, he is not just giving us another weapon, prayer is how we deploy all of the weapons.

CLOSING THOUGHT

What does Satan want?  Our hearts! 

He hates God and wants to destroy God’s image bearers. 

When we stand firm it is a victory that exalts God.

So let us reject every little temptation and thereby defeat Satan and exalt God in it.

Jeff’s message was as encouraging as it was insightful. You will be helped if you listen to this message! You can read a synopsis of his message at the Sovereign Grace Blog, or you can listen to the full audio